16 May 2008
Hello all! Can’t believe the time has gone already. I am writing yet again- I started this blog a few weeks ago, but then for a second time our lent computer from Hope crashed. It’s quite old so I don’t think it can handle our young, extremely active minds typing on it! So here we go I am starting again with a renewed sense of what I would like to share.
Well a lot has happened in the last month and a half. I am going to just share in bullet point what has happened because I would really like to start processing through some things with you since the time is coming to an end. So let me first update you in the last month and a half:
– After recovering from camel riding in Wilenchity, Maren, Josh and I were finally able to walk normal and sit on chairs without slouching. It was a rough recovery but those, “hump sores” are now gone!
– American Easter was our next big event. It was a similar feel to our Christmas this year because again the holiday wasn’t the same date in Ethiopia- but we did get to celebrate! Here are the things we did:
o The first thing we did to celebrate was coloring Easter eggs! We had a coloring contest and guess who won? DUH- who else? ME! It was a great ego boast- haha!
o Josh and I organized a Good Friday service for just the four of us. It was wonderful to be able to spend that time together and I think it helped all of us appreciate one another even more.
o As Maren told you last, we are attending a house church, so our Easter celebrations were with our house church. There were two events. On Thursday evening we participated in a “Seder Dinner.” It was a wonderful reminder of the culture and feel of things in Biblical times. The next event was a Sunrise Service, which started at 5:30am. We had a wonderful time together and we all really appreciated the time we had.
– After Easter the next event was loads of visitors! We started out by having Jon Vaux, a dear friend from college, come visit. Just as all of our visitors, Jon renewed us and reminded us of the love and support we have from friends and family at home.
– The visitors kept coming when a couple friends from Seattle came up to Ethiopia from Zambia. Jon Messner and Dan Glanville made a trip during their vacation from teaching in Zambia. We got to go hiking with them to an old rock hewn church as well as have meals together in our home. It was fun to laugh and relate with them and their experiences.
– The encouragement and love continued when Gail and Rick Mylander (the parents of Sarah and Maren) visited from Colorado. They were here for about a week. It was great having them here and their excitement and awe of this country reminded all of us of things we have come to not notice anymore. (I wish I could rewind time and count how many times I saw Rick’s jaw drop and hear him say “Amazing!”)
– Ethiopian Easter was next and Gail and Rick were able to also experience this event with us. Easter is a much bigger celebration here than in the States and is also one of Ethiopia’s biggest celebrated holidays. It was wonderful celebrating with our “family” here. We once again got to watch a sheep be slaughtered and then enjoy the food the same day! It was exciting!
– After the departure of Rick and Gail, Josh and I volunteered to babysit our friend’s daughter. Her name is Dasia and she is one and a half. It was a lot of fun and it reminded me that I don’t want kids for a while… but it was also great to be able to be with her. Some of the highlights were: getting peed on while waiting to put her in her bath, holding her as she feel asleep, laughing as she runs across the room and flops on the couch, seeing her curiosity and experiencing her unfathomable happiness.
– Currently we are having more love and support poured on us in the presence of a brother. Jarrett Mylander came two weeks ago and it has been great having him here. He fits in quite well since Josh and I have known him for a while since he also attended SPU. It has been an encouragement to us all to have him here! He will be with us until May 28th!
– Other than that we have been doing the normal things: school, friends, soccer, etc.
Alright well now onto a little bit of my processing. I have read two specific books in my time here that have helped me start to process how this time is going to affect me. The first book is a comical relief for me as well as a help in realizing how life is different here. The book is called The Poisonwood Bible and is written by Barbara Kingsolver. Most of you have probably heard of if not read this book. But some of the lines have drawn out very vivid and real memories and feelings in my mind. I will start to share these as I continue on writing. The other book is a non-fiction book written by John Taylor called The Primal Vision. This book was written to show the impact of Western Christians in Africa. It has helped me understand more deeply the culture I am experiencing here and it is challenging me in my thinking and processing of what is “right and wrong” in culture. I share this about these two books because I would like to share with you some of the things we have experienced here and quotes from these will be intermixed in the list. Through this list I hope to give a good picture of some my thoughts as we have come and gone through time here.
1. Shortly into our time here: We realized that the things we brought weren’t normal around here- from our brightly colored rain jackets to the bottles of medicine. This quote from The Poisonwood Bible best describes it, “But already our supplies from home seem to represent a bygone world: they stand out like bright party favors here in our Congolese house, set against a backdrop of mostly all mud-colored things. When I stare at them with the rainy-season light in my eyes and Congo grit in my teeth, I can hardly recollect the place where such items were commonplace, merely a yellow pencil, merely a green bottle of aspirin among so many other green bottles upon a high shelf.”
2. Shortly into our time here: As you all know through reading our blogs, health has been a major issue for all of us here. We learned quickly to not take good health for granted. In other parts of the world, in particular 3rd world nations, it is a daily thought and issue for many people.
3. Shortly into our time here: We noticed the absence of the western obsession with efficiency. Some people call it “African time” other people say that you just, “Can’t Rush Africa” we sometimes just say “TIE or TIA (This is Ethiopia, This is Africa)”. In the beginning we had to remind ourselves with these phrases to have more patience and a greater understanding. Now we are more used to the lack of efficiency, but there are definitely times where we just don’t understand. But overall we have all experienced increased levels of patience as well as understanding other methods and cultures.
4. Shortly into our time here: “The sight of my foreign skin seems to freeze their sensibilities. In the local market, a bubble of stopped conversation moves with me as I walk.” This quote from the Poisonwood Bible defines what happens as we walk around the city. Some of the funny things we hear are: farenji (meaning foreigner), money money, you you, hey baby want to marry me?, you are beautiful I love you, the list goes on and on. The funniest by far is when you are walking and people take pictures of you as you are walking or they ask for you to be in a picture. They are just so curious, so curious sometimes that they will touch our arms, hair, other inappropriate body parts as well. Sometimes the curiosity is very overwhelming but at other times it is tolerable and funny.
5. In the midst of life: We realized that we were the weird ones… Here we constantly see butcher shops with sides of animals hanging for sale by the kilo or we see animals for sale on the street and we know because of experience what the slaughter will be like. At first it is strange to experience a culture that kills their own animals. But then we realized that perhaps like I said, we are the weird ones. We have turned our slaughtering to people who can do it discreetly and concealed and then bring the nicely packaged meat to our stores so we don’t really have to think about the fact that we are eating a killed animal.
6. In the midst of life: We have realized that the amount of time spent investing in relationships is different in different places. In the United States you will commonly hear the phrase “time=money”. Here that doesn’t exist. Human relationships have a significant value here. Here is a quote from John Taylor to explain myself more, “It is an unfailing wonder and delight, this tranquility of human relationships in Africa. Whether it be child or adult makes no difference; one can enjoy the other’s presence without fuss or pressure, in conversation or in silence as the mood dictates. Whether the task in hand may be continued or must be left depends upon a score of fine distinctions which the stranger must slowly learn; but one thing is certain- a visitor is never an interruption.” This was a very valuable lesson for me to learn and I have taken away a greater appreciation and value for my friends and family. We are learning how to express this to our friends and family before coming home so they aren’t freaked out by our heightened ways of loving them and yearning to be around them.
7. In the midst of life: We have noticed through traveling in Ethiopia and exploring museums in Addis that the following quote from the Poisonwood Bible is quite true, “Poor Africa. No other continent has experienced such an unspeakably bizarre combination of foreign thievery and foreign goodwill.” We have seen Ethiopian thrones, statues, etc that were stolen by Italy but yet in the last 30 years have been returned, but on the flip side we experience the vast amount of foreign aid here. From the Chinese constructing roads to USAID bags full of 100kg of grain. It is quite amazing to see all of the countries assisting this place.
8. In the midst of life: In coming from an extremely individualistic culture it was an interesting flip coming to a very interdependent culture. There is such a dependency on community here from sharing food while eating and actually feeding one another (hand to mouth), to helping pay for others’ necessities if needed. I know that this exists in the States, but it is much more extreme here. The quote that I would like to use is what we all have come to understand fully. It is from John Taylor and it goes like this, “The price of this communal security is an unconditional readiness to share, and a complete surrender of individualism.” We must learn how to live more interdependently, it will create healthier communities!
9. In the midst of life: “Just when I start to feel jaded to life as it is, I’ll suddenly wake up in a fever, look out at the world, and gasp at how much has gone wrong that I need to fix.” (Poisonwood Bible) At times I would wake up feeling this way- completely jaded. For example when I was sick every week for a few days or when the cell phone was stolen out of my pocket. We have all felt this at times. But it is interesting to see how we overcome this feeling- it is always exciting when one of us realizes, “No we gotta change this world! We are responsible for these things that need to be fixed!”
10. In the midst of life here: Due to the intensity of living here for a year as well as the extra time we have at hand the four of us have had to face a lot of the things we had buried deep in ourselves for the last two years. We all have had to work through our hurts and our pain as well as our past successes. In this we have found the following, “The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes.” (Poisonwood Bible)
11. We will miss: The ability to read leisurely whenever we want. (Maren’s read 15 books, Sarah’s read 20 books, Josh is still wading through “The Brothers Karamozov” and Bethany has read 4 books- I know some of you might not think 4 is a lot, but for me…. It’s A LOT!)
12. In the end we will miss: Power outages two-three days a week. A weekly reminder that life isn’t simple and comfortable in a majority of the world.
13. In the end we will miss: No water for a few days at a time about every week. Yet another reminder of the level of difficulty that is present in a majority of the world.
14. In the end we will miss: Donkeys, sheep, goats, chickens and oxen running around the roads.
15. In the end we will miss: Playing games together a few times a week. The reminder to all of us of the simplicity of our lives here.
16. In the end we will miss: Cheap fresh fruit and vegetables (ie: Avocadoes 2 lbs=$0.50, Mangos 2 lbs=$0.50, Bananas 2 lbs=$0.30, Pineapple 1=$0.50), cheap restaurants. (Meals typically cost between 10-50 birr or $1.00-$5.00) and GREAT coffee.
17. In the end we will miss: English Premier League soccer games! It’s great fun sitting with hundreds of Ethiopians cheering as if they were at the game. Their love for this sport is quite amazing.
18. In the end we will miss: Sweet T-Shirts!!! From spotting my cousins high school T-shirt (Menlo Park- Atherton High) to a 2006 Seattle Seahawks Superbowl Champions T-shirt; it is always fun and sometimes a comical relief among the streets of Addis.
19. In the end we will miss: “It’s a funny thing to complain about, but most of America is perfectly devoid of smells.” “Even in the grocery store, surrounded in one aisle by more kinds of food than will ever be known in a Congolese (insert Ethiopian) lifetime, there was nothing on the air but a vague, disinfected emptiness” (Poisonwood Bible). The smells here are strong and sometimes a little rotten but other times they are good- the smell of roasting coffee, the spices drying on tarps, etc. It will be interesting to no longer have extreme smells in either direction, good or bad.
20. In the end we will hope to take away this: “Every life is different because you passed this way and touched history” (Poisonwood Bible). At times it is hard knowing what we have done here and having very tangible things to take away. But in the end we hope to know that we have touched lives here and loved the people with everything we could.
Well those are my thoughts for now. I have a lot more in my mind and heart but for now I must start to end this blog because I know four pages of reading is a bit much. But expect more of that from all of us as we return home. Know that we want to process through our thoughts and experiences with you, but at times it might be hard for us to put the words to the things that have captured our hearts and minds.
Speaking of home, we have finalized our trip plans as our time comes to an end here. Here is what will be happening:
Leaving Addis Ababa Ethiopia: July 13th at 2:45am
Short stopover in London and then arriving in Paris: July 13th at 6:30pm
Paris: July 13-18: Visiting my extended family as well as seeing the sites.
Leaving Paris traveling to Rupperswill, Switzerland arriving July 18th.
Switzerland: July 18-24: Visiting Carolyn Nason as long as other college friends: Drew Kreeger, Jake Buter, Ric Wild, and possibly the Pape’s.
Leaving Switzerland traveling to Slovenia arriving on July 24th.
Slovenia: July 24-29: Visiting David and Katka Bordner: great friends of Josh’s from home.
Leaving Slovenia traveling to London arriving on the 29th.
One day in London and then…
Seattle: Arriving July 30th at 2:35pm. Our plans for now are that anyone who wants to see us (which would be anyone in Seattle at the time) can meet us at Red Robin for an early dinner or late lunch around 4:00pm. We hope anyone and everyone there can make it. It would be great to see you all!
Alright well those are our plans for now. After July 30th we are not quite sure what will happen. Each of us have some plans- for sure a lot of traveling plans- but perhaps that will come in the next blog. We all hope that things are well for each of you.
Thinking, processing and trying to understand this world deeper,
Bethany and the rest of the pesty roommates! (Including Jarrett at the moment and the fleas! ☺)
– Visitors! (Jon Vaux, Mylander parents and Jarrett Mylander)
– God protecting our good friends around the world: safety in China for Jake Buter, protection and health for Laura Schimpf.
– Preparation of our hearts and minds in leaving this place. Also pray for the people we will be leaving.
– Continue to pray for rain in Ethiopia. There is a lack of water currently which is also creating and lack of electricity and therefore the economy is dropping.
– Continued guidance for what each of us should do upon returning to the States.